All posts by mouseclubhouse

Interview: Valerie Watson, Miss Disneyland 1962

Valerie Watson, Miss Disneyland, 1962, "Disneyland News" clipping
Valerie Watson, Miss Disneyland, 1962, “Disneyland News” clipping

Valerie Watson was a Disneyland hostess, who had escorted numerous noted personalities, including  three presidents, a prime minister, three kings, two queens, three princes and four princesses. To begin this conversation from 2010, I asked Valerie about her reign as the first “Miss Disneyland,” in 1962.

Valerie Watson: How that happened is I joined Disney in 1959, because I took a break from college to rethink my major. I took guided tours and then I had the good fortune to be selected to greet King Hussein of Jordan on his visit, April, 1959, for no special talent other than my height. I was 5’3 ½” and it was protocol that somebody should greet him that could look him in the eye – not overpower him. So that began a real wonderful career for me that lasted thirteen years.

Valerie Watson with King Hussein of Jordan
Valerie Watson with King Hussein of Jordan

After greeting King Hussein, I was made a VIP hostess along with a very good friend of mine, Donna Clark. She and I were in Guest Relations together. We were assigned to take the king and queen of Thailand through Disneyland, we were the hostesses, but always the U.S. State Department representatives were with us, and we were given protocol instructions before royalty arrived. And the crown prince and princess of Japan, and Thailand, and the three heirs to the throne of Scandinavian countries.

Valerie Watson, with the characters of Walt Disney's "Disneyland, USA" stage show at Radio City Music Hall
Valerie Watson, with the characters of Walt Disney’s “Disneyland, USA” stage show at Radio City Music Hall

Among the VIPs that I took on tour was a man named Russell Downing and his wife Sally, and I spent two days with them, showing them every part of Disneyland. I had no idea why they were there, but he was president of Radio City Music Hall in New York and he was on a confidential visit to meet with Walt Disney on how best to market a new film that was going to be released, called “Moon Pilot.” They wanted to release it at Radio City Music Hall, and in the east coast there was no real familiarity with Pluto and Mickey and Donald Duck and so forth, the “live” characters, so a stage production was in the works to launch Disney in the east, this was long before Walt Disney World.

Valerie Watson as Miss Disneyland, 1962
Valerie Watson as Miss Disneyland, 1962

They decided, “How can we get the interest of the press in New York?” who was considered very jaded, having seen everything, so they came up with a tag of “Miss Disneyland.” They weren’t looking for a beauty queen. They were looking for someone who had knowledge of the organization and enthusiasm, and Russell Downing proposed by name, so he gave that idea to Walt Disney. It was quite a Cinderella story.

Valerie Watson with John F. Kennedy at the New York World's Fair
Valerie Watson with John F. Kennedy at the New York World’s Fair

I worked for Disney in three different states. First of all California, then the New York World’s Fair, and then of all my jobs with Disney, my very favorite was working with WED Enterprises (now known as Walt Disney Imagineering.) The best was at WED, I worked for the master planners of Walt Disney World and it was all secret. It was called Project X. At that time, at WED, under one roof were animators, sculptors, painters, model makers, the most incredible assembly of creative people you can imagine, and I worked there for three years.

Valerie Watson with the first tour guides of Walt Disney World
Valerie Watson with the first tour guides
of Walt Disney World

It broke my heart to be promoted and sent to Florida. I didn’t even want to go. It was a great opportunity to start the Guest Relations department at Walt Disney World, but my heart was really always at WED.

 

To learn more about “Miss Disneyland,” be sure to hear my interview with 1964 Miss Disneyland, Carole Tully!

Interview: Chuck Corson (Dapper Dans; the Osmonds; Walt Disney World entertainment)

Chuck Corson
Chuck Corson (left), Chuck’s Disneyland business card, window tribute to Chuck at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World

Chuck Corson was the director of entertainment for Disneyland and Walt Disney World beginning in 1959.

AUDIO INDEX
:57 Chuck’s early days at Disneyland, beginning in 1959

1:23 The creation of the Dapper Dans barbershop quartet, T.J. Marker, the Osmonds, Meet Me at Disneyland TV show, casting call for mermaids and other Disneyland atmosphere entertainment

5:09 Getting performers for Walt Disney World in 1971

6:08 Working with Sonny Anderson

Interview: Rikki Lugo (Disneyland/Disney movies dancer and choreographer)

Rikki Lugo in the Golden Horseshoe Revue, Babes in Toyland

Rikki Lugo, early dance captain in the Golden Horseshoe Revue, and dancer/choreographer in Disney television shows and films such as “Babes in Toyland.”

AUDIO INDEX
1:10 The Golden Horseshoe Revue 10,000th performance television special

2:19 Remembering working with Ed Wynn on Babes in Toyland

3:15 A fun story about Annette Funicello

4:14 Choreographer Tom Mahoney and the Disneyland 10th Anniversary television special and
performing as a dancing cake piece

5:17 Hanging out with Walt Disney at the Golden Horseshoe

6:28 Why she got cavities working at Disneyland

7:15 Performing at Holidayland at Disneyland, modeling for Pendleton and dancing the Can Can in parades

10:58 Swimming as a mermaid in the Submarine Lagoon

“My Last Two Days as a Disney Cast Member” by Jeff Hoffman

My Last Two Days as a Disney Cast Member
By Jeff Hoffman
February 2010

Jeff Hoffman
Jeff Hoffman

For an amazing 31 years, I was part of the Magic of The Walt Disney Company. Growing up near Disneyland, a job at the Magic Kingdom was always in my plan. I loved Disneyland, the movies and watching the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights with my parents. In December of 1978, while a freshman in college, my dream was realized as I was hired to play a role as a Merchandise Host in Adventureland and Frontierland. I felt so proud walking through the doors of Jeff HoffmanThe Disney University for orientation. Little did I know eventually I would be part of The Disney University at The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank for 16 years of my career. In my 31 years, I spent six years at Disneyland in Theme Park Operations, my time at the University and ultimately my last nine years in Disney Worldwide Outreach. I was given an incredible opportunity to build upon my skills of selling rubber snakes and shrunken heads next to the Jungle Cruise on a journey that would ultimately lead me to having global responsibility for Disney’s Philanthropy, Community Relations, Volunteerism and Cause Marketing.

Continue reading “My Last Two Days as a Disney Cast Member” by Jeff Hoffman

Interview: Chuck Corson (Fred Waring; Big Bands; Disneyland’s nighttime entertainment)

Chuck Corson
Chuck Corson (left), Chuck and jazz legend Pete Fountain (right)

Chuck Corson was the director of entertainment for Disneyland and Walt Disney World beginning in 1959.

AUDIO INDEX
:59 Production stage manager for Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians,

1:35 Disney Night at the Hollywood Bowl and “Tinker Bell,” Tommy Walker, casting shows such as “Mickey Mouse Club,” and “Elfego Baca,” Jimmie Dodd

3:40 Disneyland’s start of nighttime entertainment, the first fireworks at Disneyland

5:44 The big bands at Disneyland, Benny Goodman, a surprise for Benny wife

8:00 His start with Disney as an apprentice in casting at the studio

10:15 Working with Walt Disney, the Squaw Valley Olympics, getting stranded with Walt, getting big name performers for Disneyland, big band festivals

Interview: Cicely Rigdon (The Disneyland Ambassador Program; ticket sellers)

Cicely Rigdon

Cicely Rigdon began working at Disneyland as a ticket seller in 1957 and would later be responsible for Disneyland’s Guest Relations and the Disneyland Ambassador program.

AUDIO INDEX
:48 Helping Disneyland Ambassador candidates and the Ambassador process

4:47 The Ambassador ceremonies

6:00 What makes a good Ambassador, explaining the park to people as Ambassador or tour guides

Interview: Cicely Rigdon (Ticket seller; tour guide; Guest Relations; Walt Disney)

Cicely Rigdon interview

Cicely Rigdon began working at Disneyland as a ticket seller in 1957 and would later be responsible for Disneyland’s Guest Relations and the Disneyland Ambassador program.

AUDIO INDEX
:53 How she came to work at Disneyland

2:56 Working as a ticket seller, working with Disneyland’s new tour guide program, working with Walt Disney who would call her Mother Hen, tour guide tags

10:08 VIP hostesses, being in charge of Guest Relations

12:15 Invited to the New York World’s Fair by Walt, Walt wanted people to get their money’s worth at Disneyland, becoming the “keeper of the keys” for Walt’s apartment at Disneyland

Mouse Clubhouse: Starting new

Although Mouse Clubhouse has been in existence online since 2007, I recently had a technical error which caused me to lose much of my original content. I am taking this as an opportunity to begin rebuilding my website, and I hope you enjoy it!

One of the biggest changes is the interviews that I used to post textual transcriptions of will now appear with the original audio so that you may listen to the actual voices of some of the most amazing people in Disney history.

Thank you for all your support over the years, and I hope you continue to enjoy Mouse Clubhouse!

-Scott Wolf